Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Does Your Reader Take Away?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

As an author, when you are writing a fiction book, do you think about what you want your reader to take away from reading your book?

I know authors want the reader to enjoy their books and buy other books they write.

But dig deeper. Don’t you want them to step into the world you’ve created, get to know your characters, one by one. Do you want them to identify with the main character? In the story, the character will be making many decisions that affect their life and the lives of others. Don’t you want your reader immersed in the story? Readers become involved and think to themselves, “Oh that’s good, at least they made the right decision in this case.” Maybe they will relate so much they will talk to your character, saying, “Why did you make that choice. Now you have messed up that relationship. I wouldn’t have done that.”

You see, when your reader goes deeper into your book, and gets to know your characters, and finds themselves relating to them, they are then invested in the book; and in you as an author.

Isaac Asimov, an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. Well known for his works of science fiction and popular science wrote about 500 books in his lifetime.  Many of his books were made into movies and TV shows like: I, Robot in 2004 with Will Smith; Nightfall in 2000 with David Carradine; Bicentennial Man in 1999 with Sam Neill and Robin Williams; and Probe, a TV series in 1988 with Parker Stevenson. Asimov said, It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.”

We never know when something we write is going to plant a seed or help someone with a decision they’re struggling with.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Behind the Litter Truck: Encouragement for the Writer in Transition

By Jennifer Hallmark

Did you ever have one of those days that started off pretty good then suddenly went all wrong? Me too…

One lovely fall afternoon, I decided to visit my mom, taking a shortcut through narrow, winding, country roads to her home. The leaves had turned from green to brilliant shades of red and gold and it was a good day to be alive.

Then I drew close behind a slow-moving truck. I groaned. Ahead of me was not just any truck but a litter-spreader truck, filled to overflowing with chicken litter from a nearby chicken farm. The stench, a cross between manure, garbage, and rotten fish, pervaded my car. I couldn’t pass him on the curvy road and it would be too much trouble to turn around and go a different way.

I clutched the steering wheel and groaned. “Why me?” I spoke out loud. “This is my writing life. I’m on the right road, doing what I’m supposed to be doing (as far as I know) and I’m stuck behind a slow, smelly truck.” I crept along at 20 miles an hour. Would it ever turn to another road? Would I ever make it to my destination? How could I get out of my place of struggle, this transition?

How do we get out of this foggy, uncertain place?

Have you been there? Or like me, are you there now? You know that point where you’ve been writing awhile and your hobby/career seems to be progressing nicely. You’ve been to numerous writing conferences, made connections with other writers, and you know it’s finally time for…

The big break.
The contract.
Signing with an agent.
The bestseller.

So you sit back and wait. And wait. Days stretch into weeks and crawl into months. No emails. No phone calls. Nothing. Cue the sound of chirping crickets. Now what?

You’ve come too far to go back but not far enough to feel confident.

Like in my driving analogy, you feel stuck. So how do we respond?

As I drove I realized I could:
(1)  Hold my nose. If I didn’t breathe through my nose, the smell would lessen. And if I didn’t dwell on the negative, I could focus more on what I can do instead of what I can’t.
(2)  Don’t follow too close. I slowed down because chunks of litter were bouncing out from under the loose tarp on top. I didn’t want it on my car. Fretting and trying to make something happen by getting close wouldn’t help me. I could, however, slow down and enjoy the scenery, my journey as it was. Creativity is stifled when you worry.
(3)  Realize that at some point the truck would turn or I would. When I was about a mile from mom’s house, the truck kept going straight while I veered to the right. At last. The odor diminished and I could speed up again. A few minutes later, I arrived at my destination. If I keep plugging away at my writing, learning, always willing to change and grow, open to opportunity, and forever laying it all before God, something will change.

Mostly me.

If you’re like me and your writing career is stalled behind a stinky truck, don’t give up hope. I’m learning patience, perseverance, and the ability to focus on my journey and not just the destination or goals I’ve set. When I slowed down, I could take in the beauty of God’s creation surrounding me. And I could follow the progression of life and even write an article from the experience.

So while waiting, I can be thankful. And try to smell the roses. Even while following a litter truck…
Jennifer Hallmark is a writer of Southern fiction and also fantasy; a combination that keeps the creative juices flowing. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet, short stories in several magazines, and been part of three book compilations: The Heart Seekers Series,Sweet Freedom A La Mode, and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. Jennifer’s website, Alabama-Inspired Fiction, and the group blog she co-founded, focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. She sends out a monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to at her author page. You can visit her onFacebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max. Their daughter Mandy is married to Tim and has given them two beautiful granddaughters, Ava, and Sadie and a handsome new grandson, Zeke. Their son, Jonathan, is married to Kristie and they’re expecting their first child. Kristie has two precious children: Cohen and Phoebe. Jennifer loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with all her grandchildren. At times, she writes.When she’s not working in the garden or keeping the grandkids.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Historical Connection

By Adriana Girolami 

Generally speaking authors write historical books, since yesterday is already in the realm of history. Little difference exists in envisioning the Appian Way during the Roman Empire or a charming little town in America's heartland during the turn of the nineteenth century.

We are all products of our environments. In most cases authors favor writing about familiar places which stimulate and appeal to their imagination the most.

I am a historical author and credit my inspirations to the haunting beauty of the old continent of Europe since I was born there. It helped me to create exciting story lines with the backdrop of splendid historical castles. Heroic knights with swords blazing and smoldering romances with beautiful damsels in distress exemplifies this period in history.

However, the characters we create with such devotion seem to breed a life of their own. At times, they strongly resemble people we are familiar with, regardless of the chronological time in history.

I was surprised to notice one of my favorite characters in the Knights Templar Trilogy, Wilfred the Valiant, had a strong resemblance to my dear late father. His speech pattern was strongly akin to phrases and words my father used when he spoke to me. I guess I didn't realize how important those words were to me at the time. I treasured and saved them throughout the years in the recesses of my mind, until they came alive in the pages of my books. I realized now how important they were, and how deeply he had affected me. He was truly my Knight in shining armor.

It would be helpful for authors to revisit places they have known throughout their lives. Areas they loved or are just familiar with lend easily to creating storylines. I am certain that endless possibilities will sprout from it.

If memories linger throughout the years, those recollections likely are dear to us. In general, our characters are a composite of people we have known, as well as they bring parts of ourselves into the equation.

Since I love to travel, many of my characters were created while I was fortunate enough to visit palaces and castles throughout Europe. I could actually see them come alive with such clarity, that it even shocked me at times. It was a riveting experience as I relished the joy of being surrounded by the majesty of history still alive in the dust of time.

However, in today's world we don't have to travel very far to be connected with special, exotic places. Through the magic of the Internet we can now visit places in the world that people in the past could only dream about.

We are privileged to be part of this ever-changing world. It gives us the opportunity to explore and create. It helps us to benefit from our past, and create a myriad of storylines for the future. It is an honor for all of us to replenish the endless firmament of books, with creativity and beauty. 
Adriana Girolami is an historical romance author. She was born in Rome, Italy and credits the ancient beauty of her native country for her love of history. She immigrated to the United States and attended The Art Students League in New York City. She is a professional portrait artist who loves to write and express her creativity not only with a brush, but also with the power of the written words.  Her debut novel, Mysterious Templar, is now a trilogy followed by The Crimson Amulet and on March 1, 2017 Templar's Redemption will also be published. Being also an artist she particularly enjoys painting the covers for all her books. She loves to travel with her husband and has been privileged to visit many beautiful places in the world. Since her work is sedentary, she exercises faithfully, loves to jog, plays racquetball and has a black belt in Kenpo Karate. She always looks forward to a special tomorrow and writing her next exciting novel.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Technology Crying Wolf

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

The laser light show of the Great Pyramids is instructive and beautiful. It allows a glorious presentation of one of the world’s great wonders. It is a marriage of modern technology and ancient wonder. But some years ago this great marvel set off one of the greatest technology mismatches in modern history.

After 9/11 our military started positioning itself for a possible conflict in the Middle East. The Vietnam era C141 cargo planes began the long haul from the States to the various military bases    in the Middle East with supplies and equipment.

These great mammoths were equipped with the latest technology for defense which included a flare defense against heat seeking missiles. These flares would be fired off to draw the heat seeking missiles away from the aircraft and explode harmless in midair out of the range of the aircraft.

As these great aircrafts made their way over the area of the Great Pyramids their flares began firing. It took some research to discover the false triggering of the flares but it was soon discovered the lasers in the Pyramids light show was setting off the flares. The lasers were simulating the lasers of the guidance system of a heat seeking missile thus the flares fired to defend the aircraft from the incoming missiles, in effect crying wolf. The solution was switching the defense system to manual while in the area of the Pyramids.

Today’s technology, for the most part, does what it is intended to do. But there are cases when it goes awry. One case was the recent phantom phone calls to 911. They were generated by a problem in the lines and were signaling a 911 call as a hang up coming from a particular home. The calls were not made by the people or their children. The children were grown and not living with them and the couple were in fact not even home when some of the calls were made. The police had made several trips to the home but the owners felt sure that was about to end. A glitch in the system was crying wolf. The authorities were not about to make a false run when someone may need their help elsewhere.          

Technology crying wolf has become more common than we think. Most of it sounds like fiction but it is highly possible if it is true. Either way writers can use these believable or not events to begin a great story. I say believable because you may want to verify the two stories I used as examples. See if you can confirm either or both and let me know what you find. Was this true or was I crying wolf.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Show, Don’t Tell

By Sheree K. Nielsen

Anyone can tell a story, and it might even interest the reader, but wouldn’t it be better if they conjured up visual images in their mind?

Attending Saturday Writer’s group for the first time in 2008, the board members gave a talk with handouts on The First Rule of Writing by Sandy Tritt – Show, Don’t Tell. I still implement this principle of writing today.

Born and bred in The Show Me State, the Show, Don’t Tell rule is easy to remember.

Readers love visual details. With regards to travel writing, I try to place readers in the moment by touching on all the senses. Here are a few examples of painting visual pictures while penning travel articles.

As I stroll through the Middle Caicos’ picturesque Mudjin Harbor, I notice limestone cliffs towering above. Powdery pink sand massages tender toes and heels. Rounding the curve of the island, warm summer trade winds tousle my sun-bleached hair as I reach harbor’s point.

An excerpt from my feature in AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler“Southern Sophistication”, published in 2016, talks about the interior of award-winning restaurant, Circa 1886, in Charleston, South Carolina. “The romantic restaurant with arched booths and candlelit tables, beckons couples to linger over a fine-dining experience.” Even that one sentence description sets up a visual image for the restaurant ambience.

Don’t those two totally different descriptions place you in the moment?     Anything less than feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing or touching robs the reader from pure imagination in this adventure we call Life.

And finally, here’s an example taken from my ‘healing’ coffee table book of beach photographs and lyrical poetry and prose, Folly Beach Dances – The Infinite Rhythms of a South Carolina SeashoreThe photograph is titled Liquid Dancing. If I’m having a stressful day, I remember these words for writing inspiration.

“The glistening water reflects from the sun hints of golden maize and beige gray in this late morning swelters, with ripples that form parallel to the sand similar to an Escher drawing.”
Often when I’m traveling, I’ll find a seat on a park bench, or along a shoreline, and observe the sights, sounds, and smells around me. When I begin writing, the words seem to flow like musical notes on a song sheet.

Peace, love, and long walks on the beach!
Sheree K. Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer, poet and photographer.  Her countless credits include Missouri LifeAAA Midwest TravelerAAA Southern Traveler, and others. For two consecutive years, Sheree received First Place for Photography from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance – Awarded September 2014 for “Jimmie on the Pier”, and in October 2013 – “Dear Kindred Spirit”. The photos were selected for inclusion in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 and 3. Chosen by her peers, Sheree received the First Place, People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction, Storyteller Magazine, April-June 2010. Sheree’s works are well-represented in numerous anthologies, magazines, websites, and newspapers across the nation and Caribbean. Her essays and poems interweave universal beauty inspired through travel, nature and family.  She enjoys teaching her “Every Picture Tells a Story” workshop to veterans. She credits a deep affinity for the ocean to her parents through regular vacations to the Southeast.  Dad Joe, a World War II veteran, spun tales of exotic ports of call.  Her mom Gladys, a sketch artist and master gardener, taught Sheree about art and nurturing the soil. She blogs at Sheree’s Warm Fuzzies.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Collaborative Beauty

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Each time I attend a writers conference, as I had the pleasure of doing this weekend, I come away with a renewed sense of the community spirit that writers share.  It's a brotherhood and sisterhood unique in the fact that we all have something to say.  Not only do we respect each other's right to say it, but we're eager to help each other do so.

The folks who visited my table for 15-minute one-on-ones were all promising writers with diverse interests: songwriting, playwriting, creative fiction, and more.  They were each working on projects at various stages of completion.  But what they all had in common was the question, "Now what do I do?"

My first question back to them is to find out whether they have a platform for promoting their work. I'm quick to recommend Edie Melson's comprehensive but easy read, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers.  Lots of books offer advice on using Facebook for marketing, but few address specific promotional tactics to help writers develop an online audience, and Edie has practiced what she preaches with great success.

To those who want to know how to approach a publisher with what they've written, I then pull out my copy of W. Terry Whalin's Book Proposals That $ell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success.  From coming up with an elevator pitch to putting together the whole presentation package, Terry's voice of experience as an acquisitions editor has helped countless writers learn how to get their feet in the door and their manuscripts looked at.

Occasionally, I can even answer a writer's question without the aid of a book! But in moments like these I'm reminded of how grateful I am for Terry and Edie.  I'm especially grateful that they contribute their talents to each issue of Southern Writers Magazine.

As a huge movie buff, I have an affinity for the insights of screen and stage writer Shelly Frome, who left his mark in the Big Apple before taking up roots as a Southern novelist.  Shelly's articles on screenwriting also appear in each issue.  He explores themes, scenes, character motivations and much more from an insider's perspective.  If you like to ponder the psychology of what's on the silver screen, Shelly is the man in the director's chair.

Acclaimed Virginia poet and author Sara M. Robinson is one busy gal.  In fact, she presented at another convention herself just a few weeks ago.  But she finds time to contribute her deep thoughts via "Poetry Matters" in each issue.  Her ability to analyze prose and its purpose is of TED Talk caliber.

C. Hope Clark is another regular in the mag who parlays her talents as a novelist into valuable instruction, in this case on writing dialogue.  You can catch a glimpse of Hope's enviable ear for the spoken word via an entertaining new video she and I collaborated on, called What Rhett and Scarlett Can Teach Writers About Dialogue at bit.ly/RhettWrite

What can I say about Steve Bradshaw besides that he is a scholar and a gentleman, and has seen more corpses than Vlad the Impaler? Well, that's been a necessary evil in his career as a forensic investigator, biotech entrepreneur, and now a celebrated mystery author. His articles in each issue dig into medicine and murder as only someone who has investigated over 3.000 unexplained deaths can do, so that you don't have to.

We couldn't do what we do without those talented folks, much less the 30 to 40 authors who appear in each issue and an awesome writing staff that includes Vicki H. Moss, Chris Pepple, Jessica Ferguson, Londa Hayden, Barbara Ragsdale, and Annette Cole Mastron, who also makes this very blog you're reading happen.  Put them all together with our fearless leader, Editor-in-Chief Susan Reichert, and it adds up to a collaboration much greater than the sum of its parts.

This is not so much a shameless plug for the magazine (although it is!) as much as a well-deserved plug for these authors and any others who sacrifice their own precious book-writing time to show other writers how it's done. We never take them for granted, and I hope when you meet them at a conference, you'll take a moment to thank them too.

Monday, March 20, 2017


By Cliff Yeargin

I am a storyteller. I work daily in network television and I write mysteries. The two are very different crafts. Television is more a collaborative process in the beginning while writing breeds solitude. But the two also share some very similar traits and challenges when it comes to telling a story. A story bubbles up from one person and as it flows downriver it can often get lost in the muddy waters of teamwork. In TV we have layers of producers, legal, show team executives and reporters that weigh in on each story. For a writer there are agents, editors and publishers to chime in as the story navigates the rapids.

The biggest challenge today in television storytelling is technology. When I first told a story for TV it was just me, one camera and the subject. Today we have a dizzying array of tools. Tiny cameras you can mount on a moving car or maybe a skateboard or even the head of a monkey. Add a drone in the sky and you can end up with hours of footage. Software in our editing process now makes it a snap to add almost any special effect in mere seconds. Once we spit out the final version we often stand around and pat ourselves on the back about how cool it looks. Except for one thing. One big thing. Sinking under all the muddy water of cool tools we have lost the STORY. Viewers at home aren’t as impressed as we are with our toys and all they wish to see and hear is the story. In television the best editing is editing those goes unnoticed by the viewer.

Telling a story in fiction can face challenging water as well. When you set out to write a book the first thing you think about is what story do I want to tell. You are not concerned with revisions, marketing or sales because at that moment you are just telling a story. Even that calm water can turn muddy if you spend too much time trying to turn prose into poetry when your skills don’t reach that level or imitating the style of your favorite writer instead of searching for your own voice. An overwritten fanciful sentence may delight your inner muse but no reader is likely to tell a friend about your book by saying “I just read one of the most beautifully crafted sentences.” They are however much more likely to tell them about a “great story” they just finished.

From the time of cavemen around the fire to the old man next to the pot-bellied stove at the general store, the person who demanded the most attention was the storyteller. We are the storytellers of today. Television or fiction the goal should be to steer clear of muddy waters and narrow our journey downriver to one simple thing…the story.

To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton’s laser focus on the economy…

It’s the STORY…Stupid.”
Cliff Yeargin has spent his life as a “Storyteller”, the bulk of that in a long career in Broadcast Journalism as a Writer, Producer, Photographer and Editor. Most of those years were spent covering sports, particularly Major League Baseball, where in Baltimore he was lucky enough to cover Cal Ripken Jr.’s very first and very last game…and hundreds in between. He is the author of the Award Winning Jake Eliam ChickenBone Mystery Series.The books include the introductory RABBIT SHINE and the second in the series HOOCHY KOOCHY which was named The Georgia Author of The Year Silver Medal Finalist in the Mystery Category for 2016. Today he has returned to his native Georgia and works at CNN. Follow Jake, Catfish and the rest in this Southern Fried Mystery Series.   cliffyeargin.com